Monday, January 30, 2017

Vetements // Fall 2017

It was considered a monumental move at the time, Vetements abandoning the formal fashion week schedule in favour of showing in January and July. It became clear in July 2016 that the switch wouldn’t be wild: they would be showing during couture week when most buyers were in town spending their budgets on pre-collections. Last week Demna Gvasalia presented his sophomore collection on the new schedule, right in the centre of couture week.

‘Stereotypes’ was the title. The collective fronted by Georgian-born Gvasalia and his brother, CEO Guram Gvasalia, was looking to the streets for inspiration again. They assembled an army of the commonplace: the fur-coat wearing lady; the burly bouncer in his leather jacket; the German tourist; the businessman; the UN peacekeeper; the free spirit; a security woman; the soigné gala attendee; the punk; the office worker (who humorously reminded this critic of Lorelei Gilmore from Gilmore Girls); the biker; the bride. No societal stone was left unturned. They took those characters’ most worn looks and subverted them. The opening fur coat was fashioned from two separate coats; the deconstructed denim jacket consisted of two dissected denim pieces creating an optical illusion of sorts; jeans with the Vetements logo printed across the front—likely street style bait.
There were two looks in particular that encouraged the most thought. The bridal gown, an extravagant embroidered tulle number with an excessive veil draped over the models head took to the runway to close the show. In couture tradition, the bride’s gown closes the show. It made one beg the question: is Vetements mocking couture? It was. On a Vetements runway there is jeans, puffer jackets, macintosh coats. The clothes we wear every day; couture is the clothing one dreams to where. It is the gold dust of fashion. Vetements celebrates low culture and subverts that with odd proportions, bold silhouettes, and a confused political commentary.

The politics of this particular collection reached its peak when a haggard homeless-looking man took to the runway. His torn jumper was printed with the European Union flag, his coat fastened with a loose tie. He carried a Vetements sleeping bag. Homelessness is a serious issue and should not be dealt with the way it was here. It was a disgusting glamorisation of society’s most disadvantaged. Call it political or whatever you like, but the fact of the matter is that it simply doesn’t belong in a fashion show. Capitalising on the back of someone else’s disenfranchisement is grossly inappropriate.

In one sense the show was the antithesis of couture: it referenced the banal—fetishised it even—and skewered every imaginable character to every wander a street near you. There was the novelty casting, the subversion of stereotypes. It was vulgar, it was Vetements. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Friday, January 27, 2017

Valentino // Spring 2017 //

Pier Paolo Piccioli has been flying solo at Valentino since last summer when it was announced his co-creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri would be decamping to Christian Dior, to assume the role as creative director—the first woman to do so. Since her departure Piccioli has presented four collections which is not only a testament to the demanding fashion industry but also to his innate stamina, particularly after one half of the lead design team no longer works there. 

In the past three weeks Piccioli has presented three of the four collections. On January 11, in New York, he showed a remarkable pre-fall collection which oozed femininity and modernity. The week later, in Paris, he showed his first full menswear collection; he didn’t eschew from the refinement Valentino men’s is synonymous with. He looked to England in the seventies, employing Jamie Reid—who created the Sex Pistols typography—to fashion him pithy slogans. It undoubtedly captured gentlemanliness. Earlier this week he displayed his first couture collection, borrowing references from Greek mythology. It was exquisitely ethereal as the couture usually is… an exciting proposition for the customer.
It was his debut—of sorts—that confirmed a subtle redirection in the Valentino aesthetic. For Spring 2017 he began by switching venue. Generally, the Italian house erect a tent in the Jardin du Tuileries but this season he opted for the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild (where the couture and menswear shows are often held.) A stately venue, the show opened the with a model wearing a loose, pleated day dress with pink accents. 

The pink used was indicative of a collaborator, whom Piccioli enlisted to work on prints used: British designer Zandra Rhodes. With her shocking pink hair, the designer appeared on his mood board and her signature bob was echoed in the clothes. (From the opening look, to a delightfully patterned velvet-accented coat or an intricate lace-embroidered evening gown in the finale troupe.) Rhodes’ prints were a modern interpretation of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting ’The Garden of Earthly Delights’. It wouldn’t exactly be a Valentino collection without a painterly renaissance reference.

In a sense this skewered numerous renaissance points for Valentino, Bosch’s triptych appearing being an obvious one. Zandra Rhodes rose to stardom in the 1970s, a renaissance for fashion—and Hollywood. This is also a time for Piccioli to reinvent, to discover and design some self-serving fashion. Perhaps the newfound edge was something he yearned to do but Chiuri’s penchant for pretty surface decoration and ethereal femininity held him back. Now that the element of compromise has been relinquished he is free to explore the punk references he might’ve wanted to years ago. Secondly, Valentino has always been a house with romantic, Italian sensibilities—Piccioli and Chiuri proud Italians. However, here it appears an English subtlety is pervading his work, what with the Zandra Rhodes and Jamie Reid. That’s not to mention his casting—Valentino can be alarmingly white, but positive changes were made. The casting didn’t move mountains but it was a step forward. 

I’m tentative to label this a new beginning seeing as Piccioli has been at Valentino since 1999. It was a beginning—the first without Maria Grazia Chiuri. It was also a continuation, of doing what he does best: designing wearable, feminine, modern clothes for the customer. There is something refreshing though about starting a new chapter. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Louis Vuitton // Fall 2017 // Menswear

Travel is embedded in the Louis Vuitton menswear framework. Kim Jones keenly observes house codes, whereas Nicolas Ghesquière at womenswear fervently reinvents them. ‘Volez, Voguez, Voyagez’ are symbolically three words intrinsic to the brand. Fly, sail, travel. When founded in 1854, by the eponymous designer, it specialised in trunks—the monogrammed ones that are still synonymous with the superrich today. Kim Jones’ menswear takes the audience on a vacation. In recent times there’s been Paris—celebrating the City of Light in the wake of dark times; a Saharan sojourn with a peppering of punk and Paris; Japan, Indonesia, China; India. For Fall 2017, Jones looked to the world’s most populous city: New York.


“The dynamic New York culture of the recent past—seventies, eighties, early nineties,” read the press release. Jones was thinking about the “louche seventies decadence of the denizens of Studio 54”, influential artists ranging from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and filmmaker Julian Schnable. Jones softened his silhouette with the introduction of looser shapes—roomy trousers; flowing cardigans; delineated day coats. One model with his unkempt blond hair looked like Warhol himself, styled in various earthy tones.
It contemplated creativity and collaboration. “No New York City men’s conversation is complete without Supreme,” asserts Jones. It was widely speculated prior to the show that there would be a collaboration between the streetwear brand and luxury goods corporation—confirmation came via leaked imagery with the Supreme and LV logo on accessories. The hypebeasts (those who ‘collect clothing, shoes and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others) of the world will be tripping over themselves to rush to the Louis Vuitton stores around the world. They have time to build up the finances to buy keychains, duffle bags, scarves, backpacks and satchels—or if they have $55,000 to spare: a Supreme x Vuitton trunk. He wanted it to be representative of the success of Supreme, the streetwear brand and the street style phenomenon it started, and the savoir-faire sensibilities of Vuitton. 

While I loved the loose silhouettes, the warmth to the clothing, I was deterred by the collaboration. This could benefit Supreme far more than Vuitton. The design teams with their accessories expertise crafted leather goods that elevate Supreme’s streetwear aesthetic. What does Vuitton get in return? A younger customer and garner endless clicks online and hundreds of thousands of double taps on Instagram. Is that enough nowadays, when all brands want is more?

Jones’ New York state of mind merged lad culture, branded clothing with sophisticated art world references: uptown meets downtown—characteristically Vuitton, one could say. 
Images Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Kiko Kostadinov // Fall 2017 // Menswear

“Cutting is what excites me,” says Bulgarian-born designer Kiko Kostadinov, in an interview with Dazed. “But not as in pattern cutting, as in experimenting. When I talk about cutting, it’s not like I’m a fucking Savile Row tailor. Cutting, proportion and silhouettes excite me.” Few a designer can express a similar sentiment. Kostadinov is fresh off the success of his sophomore menswear show, presented at the BFC Presentation Space at the Store Studios, a few weeks ago. Having only been around for a year—he was part of the Central Saint Martins MA show during London Fashion Week, before launching his eponymous label at menswear week that June—he already has collaborations with Stüssy under his belt, the assistance of Dover Street Market and enraptures audiences with his dystopian-lensed clothing. Contrary to many designers, he isn’t solely motivated by aesthetics.

“Consumers should be much more critical and not distracted by social media ‘campaigns’,” I appreciate this statement, especially as a writer who has never abandoned journalistic integrity for social media likes. “They should be able to make their own mind up and choose clothes with real beauty or substance,” he continues. There will be brands, and bloggers, who rise to the top without merit, but that’s fashion: it’s not a meritocracy. However, there will be those who will support your work nonetheless. In Kostadinov’s case he has the support of publications such as Dazed and i-D, as well as countless other independent projects whose willingness to promote is endearing. 
“I hate decoration, I hate it so much.” This statement is echoed in his clothing, which is, obviously, unfussy and refined but yielding the poetic symbolism of uniforms and homogeneity. It is also another declaration that feeds into his thought process. Oftentimes designers are preoccupied with achieving the social media moment that will be projected across Instagram and be enjoyed for 0.5 seconds. By placing an emphasis on textiles and silhouettes, Kostadinov separates himself from the crowd and essentially forms a niche of his own—not only with his clothes—but not getting caught up with the world of social media, where everything lives fast and dies quickly.

Despite his aversion to social media antics, Kostadinov enlisted set designer Thomas Petherick. (He’s also created sets for Faustine Steinmetz, Ashish, amongst others.) Three geometric objects were positioned in the room. The collection itself was comprised of 16 looks and they were an “exploration of a modern uniform and its relationship to class”. Scrubs, miner’s outfits, postmen and decorators—you likely know one of them. Kostadinov enlivened society’s signature utilitarian uniforms with double faced twills paired with the fabric’s reverse side; Scottish knitwear with intarsia sleeve details; Italian nylon and Japanese jersey. They are jobs generally assumed by the middle class; the homemade bowl cuts the models sported were also a meditation on class--an anonymous haircut but rooted in class divisions. 

I’m intrigued whenever designers muse on mundanity. On the one hand it makes their garments more marketable, on the other it might seem pointless if it’s so easy for the high street to imitate. (Then again designers have the opportunity to expand their dialogue with fabrication.) It was similar to when Molly Goddard, in the earlier seasons, and Phoebe English, before her menswear took flight—tapping into naturalistic, bleak imagery to convey a darker message. London designers are skilled at that. Kostadinov’s development will be interesting to watch.

WWD.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Off-White // Fall 2017 // Menswear

The UNESCO Headquarters at Place de Fontenoy in Paris contended with the rumbling circus of streetwear on Thursday morning. Virgil Abloh’s legion of loyalists paraded about outside for the street style photographers dressed in his Off-White label, ahead of the Fall 2017 menswear show. Inside the venue, the floor was decorated in detritus, decaying leaves littering the ground, wiry trees dotted here and there. Abloh is never one for sets—he values simplicity and refinement in his presentation. (Although the eye-catching set threatened to take away from the clothes; it was atmospheric but I yearned for the minimalist white background—strangely.)

“Seeing Things”, he called the collection. He could be referencing the ever expanding landscape of lad culture and skate culture. He built his brand on those two aesthetics—or lifestyles for some, namely his customer. His silhouettes this season are looser: wide trousers with polo tops; cerulean half-zips with billowing white flares. The fluidity to the garments was evocative of a wider cultural shift, the fluidity of gender, but also the current generation’s affinity for the 90s and appropriating 90s culture on Instagram. The North of England endlessly inspires fashion and whiffs of that could be caught here.

“Seeing Things” could also point to the irony in the collection. Was that a double-breasted, tartan coat with pointed lapels and exaggerated shoulders I just saw take the runway by storm?
Intergenerational dressing was Demna Gvasalia’s agenda at his sophomore menswear collection at Balenciaga last Wednesday. The Georgian-born designer was looking at the businessmen arriving at the Balenciaga and Kering offices and translating this formal dressing to a generation of men about to buy into suiting. Abloh was entering similar territory. As I wrote last week, designers are desperately seeking to appeal to as many different customer groups as possible. To Abloh’s delight, his work is so intrinsically linked with youth that even if he matured his clothing they would still follow. Perhaps it was the 80s referencing that granted him entry—those crisp white pants; tapered teal trousers; sturdy anoraks in cool tones; a double-breasted black coat. These were the standout items for men over 40. 

The language and codes of streetwear aren’t restricted to those born after 1987, but universally applicable—who’s going to stop you from a fur jacket with a cerulean neckpiece with a matching sweater and white trousers, with the obligatory chelsea boots? Streetwear is global. Just a few weeks ago I spotted a teenage girl in my city wearing an Off-White hoodie. Jealousy aside, she looked great.

Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Monday, January 23, 2017

Givenchy // Fall 2017 // Menswear

Much was made over the fact that Riccardo Tisci presented his Fall 2017 menswear on January 20, at the same time as Donald J Trump was at the inauguration ceremony where he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. It is Tisci showed at the same time Trump proclaimed a national day of patriotism and boasted his protectionist values—Tisci has long been influenced by Americana. His menswear collection last June featured the dollar sign motif; his Spring 2016 womenswear was shown in New York, coinciding with the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and celebrated togetherness and American resilience; he made headlines with his “Victorian-chola girl” of Fall 2015, on the grounds of cultural appropriation cries; basketball culture underscores much of his oeuvre.

To extend his reference pool, he looked at the star spangled banner and its stars and stripes. Dennis The Menace style sweaters were decorated with red and black stripes. Other sweaters were printed with a constellation of stars. They came in the rich hues that punctuated his last womenswear outing. Elsewhere, he explored Alaskan heritage and totem poles—dazed characters appeared on t-shirts and jumpers. Mining skate cultures’ endless references, those group of boys in the show resembled Tisci himself, in plaid t-shirts with Vans-esqe Givenchy trainers. A blue plaid jacket over a white hoodie, a red top creeping out from beneath, black joggers and trainers—a look in the show—couldn’t be more in tune with men on the street.

Tisci isn’t selling any false American dream; his casting and clothing are much more a reflection on the American reality: it’s diverse, a universe shared by people from all backgrounds and races and genders, and it’s comprised of sportswear, streetwear, formalwear. A pinstripe suit with an exposed-seam jacket and trainers doesn’t contradict itself in Tisci’s design language; the mix between workwear and streetwear characterises American fashion which emerged in the 20th century. 

The show closed with an assortment of his couture collection which nowadays is presented alongside the men’s. Commandeered by Mariacarla Boscono, Tisci’s women were inspired the “Victorian women of the west”. Similar to Erdem’s Spring 2016 collection, the women he’s referencing are the ones who grew unhinged in their barren surroundings. Tartan and Victorian decoration lit up this part of the show. While it was on a fundamentally different level to the men’s, it wasn’t incongruous alongside as I usually find it to be. 

5pm on Friday evening signalled a seismic shift to come in the world. Tisci’s message of diversity, striving for positivity even in darkness, and his passion made it bearable. He knows how to pull at heartstrings and tap into a more emotional state of being—few designers have that effect.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Balenciaga // Fall 2017 // Menswear

Yesterday morning, Demna Gvasalia was one of the opening acts of Paris Fashion Week. His second menswear collection for Balenciaga picked up where his last left off: reinterpreting classic codes of suiting and tailoring. The inspiration for his latest show was derived from the new Balenciaga and Kering headquarters in Paris; Gvasalia began to see the men who arrived at the office suited. He channeled their workwear here, in what the show notes describes as “a reading of contemporary reality, spanning the formal and casual, aimed at the breadth of an intergenerational audience.”

Intergenerational fashion is an interesting area that designers—especially the heavyweight labels—are investing research and development. You saw it recently with the arrival of Maria Grazia Chiuri at Christian Dior, sending t-shirts with ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, ‘Dio(r)evolution’, down the runway; there was a pointed political statement but the t-shirt symbolises accessibility to the generation of young women who will want to buy into the Dior universe down the line. Alessandro Michele’s Gucci is also championing this facet of fashion with the generation-less design ethos. (Notably, these are all Kering brands.)

How did Gvasalia incorporate this? He had the suits, with proportion pushing wide-shoulders and government official-worthy overcoats, but he juxtaposed this with skinny jeans, the velvet tracksuit trousers, innovative shirt-cum-hoodies, sweatshirts (one was even printed with the Kering logo—interesting marketing.) Lotta Volkova created a young man entering a big corporation with her A* styling. Although presented on an army of young men, older men could just as easily swoop in and pluck items from the collection off the rack.
Gvasalia has long had a running commentary on consumer culture. One model in this show, wearing a red pinstripe suit with overlong trousers, carried Balenciaga shopping bags. Ditto another in a deep blue, wide-shouldered, double-breasted tuxedo. It is ironic that someone like Gvasalia, a fashion designer, would use consumer culture as a recurring motif when his brand is one of the most sought after in the industry, one that generates millions in profit every year—all because of consumer culture.

Bernie Sanders—a man aware, and opposed to, consumerism—made an unexpected appearance in the show. No, 75-year-old man who ran against Hillary Clinton in the election didn’t walk in the show. His campaign logo was appropriated by the Balenciaga logo and appeared on red and blue hoodies and an oversized scarf, draped across the shoulders of the closing model. It was a witty ode to the year that passed—perhaps an indication also that Gvasalia is steel feeling the Bern? The socialist symbols are all the more relevant in the current political climate. Could Bernie Sanders have defeated Donald J Trump in the U.S. presidential election? We will never know. Socialism vs populism will be a reappearing motif of 2017’s political discourse. In Gvasalia’s adopted home of France, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is vying for presidency. Will socialism prevail in the face of fascism? The future holds the answer. 

Gvasalia has great ideas. He has opinions on consumer culture, commercialism; he interacts with youth culture and fetish in his collections, which proves for thought-provoking material. I especially admire this newly-awakened politico in him, but I do wish the clothes matched the ideas—right now, they’re falling flat, even if mundanity is the aim. 
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

'Stoppers: Photographs from My Life at Vogue' by Phyllis Posnick

It was exciting, on Christmas morning, to receive Phyllis Posnick’s book Stoppers: Photographs from My Life at Vogue. Posnick has been the executive fashion editor for American Vogue for almost thirty years. Throughout her lifetime at Vogue, she has produced jaw-dropping imagery with the assistance of the nine prolific image-makers she tells her story through in this book. ’Stoppers’ was a term coined by Alexander Liberman who was the former art director at Vogue, before he became the editorial director at Condé Nast. It captures her ability to coax an arresting array of intelligent imagery from a given photographer. 

The nine image-makers that have worked closely with Posnick have produced some of their best work on shoots with her. Steven Klein, Tim Walker, Helmut Newton, Patrick Demarchelier, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino, Anton Corbijn and Irving Penn (to whom the book is dedicated to) are the nine names 

Unlike other Vogue editors, such as Tonne Goodman, Camilla Nickerson, Grace Coddington, who have eight to twelve pictures to tell a story—Posnick has one or two. Generally, her work occupies the health and beauty pages which sees her produce thought-provoking work that truly stands out in the pages of American Vogue, which famously doesn’t venture far into the wild side. 

“She could be the creative offspring of Lee Miller and Luis Buñuel: from the former, a deep commitment to photojournalism, that an image should always convey a clear and direct meaning; and, from the latter, a twisted, surreal sense of humour, with Phyllis deploying a little shock value to draw you deeper and deeper into the narrative of the picture,” Anna Wintour writes in the foreword to the book. Speaking very highly of her colleague, Wintour manages to encapsulate the sheer brilliance of Posnick’s remarkable work. 

Steven Klein
“Steven is the only photographer I know who can turn a child’s inflatable pool toy into a sexual predator” are the words that Posnick opens the first chapter with. American photographer Klein is critically-renowned for his gripping portrayals of strong, powerful women in extreme situations. Caroline Trentini arriving in a room with a man wearing a bunny head and a sharp tuxedo from 2010, to accompany a story about female Viagra’s controversial results; or her standing in a meat locker; ’Toyland’, the aforementioned inflatable pool toy shot where a nude model stands before an army of inflatables.

“I try to anticipate which strange direction he’ll take with the subject, but I’m always surprised, and usually wrong,” Posnick remarks.

Tim Walker
Walker’s romantic dreamscapes have lent themselves to Posnick’s work. Both are extraordinary storytellers, with a penchant for the perverse. “It’s exciting to work with Tim because the photographs we do for Vogue surprise our readers and sometimes surprise our editor-in-chief because they don’t always look like ‘American Vogue’”, which is why Walker’s work for Vogue has been so fascinating. His detailed approach to working and expert use of colour add a dreamy, beautiful air to the magazine. 

A personal favourite image of mine is when Vogue reported on the beehive hairdo trend and tasked Walker and Posnick with creating the accompanying image. The result is Guinevere van Seenus in a yellow Alexander McQueen honeycomb dress with superimposed bees. A tongue-in-cheek trend analysis to be remembered forever.

Helmut Newton
“Helmut could do strong photographs anywhere—day or night: in the noon sun, under a street lamp, in a phone booth, using a car’s headlights, or in the underground garage of his buildings.” His work has been executed in many of these exact situations. The second image of Newton’s work in the magazine is set in a bathroom, where a moody model is on her knees, wearing lingerie, scrubbing splattered blood from the floor, the outline of a body menacingly drawn on the tiles.

Posnick shares in the book the reaction of Vogue readers to Newton’s provocative work. Many were horrified by the uncompromising imagery the magazine ran by him. Nevertheless, he enjoyed all the “anti-Newton” letters and even asked Posnick to forward them to him for his archives. 

Patrick Demarchelier

Despite the language barrier, Posnick and Patrick Demarchelier have produced some fabulous work together. The French photographer came to America in the 1970s, when Posnick first met him. Four decades later and the two are still working together. “Vogue doesn’t publish conventional beauty pictures. The ones that Patrick takes are as close as we get to ‘pretty’, but they have a little twist that makes them unusual.” A prime example would be a picture of model Karlie Kloss, gazing longingly over her shoulder, the yellow tulle over her face painted. Julien d’Ys, hairstylist, painted the face on Karlie to tell the story of extreme eye makeup on the Spring 2010 runways. 

Bruce Weber
It is a fleeting chapter, the one dedicated to Bruce Weber. Posnick explains, “one of the greatest regrets of my career is that I haven’t worked more with Bruce.” Bruce’s traditional brand of portraying macho masculinity was domesticated by Posnick, who solely allowed Weber to capture throbbing passion in his work. Whether it be actress Michelle Rodriguez growling at the camera or Olympic athlete Carmelita Jeter racing a horse or athlete Jennifer Parilla in flight, front-flip is a testament to Weber’s ability to capture human emotion. 

Annie Leibovitz
One of the first image you’re greeted with in the book is of Posnick herself, seated in her work uniform—comprised of a white shirt and navy trousers. The portrait was done by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue regular, and was shot in the Whitney Museum, which as then under construction. Posnick regales how tension arrived during the shoot—Leibovitz wasn’t happy with Posnick’s clothing selection and couldn’t find an appropriate shooting location within the Museum. Attitudes changed during the photoshoot that afternoon when Posnick experienced the unique feeling of ease with Leibovitz’s lens. Posnick understood that’s how Annie manages to captures celebrities ranging from Angelina Jolie and Benedict Cumberbatch the way she does—they’re at ease. 

Mario Testino
If there was a creative’s name so closely linked with American Vogue and it’s contemporary history it would Mario Testino. Peruvian-born Testino has been tasked with photographing actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Blake Lively, as well as models Karlie Kloss, Kate Moss and more for the covers of the magazine over the past few years. 

He has also had the opportunity to work with Posnick on multiple occasions and his work with her has been documented here. An image that sticks out in my mind for the catalogue Testino has produced from working alongside Posnick is an image of all-American model Karlie Kloss nude in the desert, covered in a clay mask. Another tongue-in-cheek example of Posnick’s brand but on a simpler level, an unforgettable image.

Anton Corbijn
“She pushes me to make ‘my’ photographs and not try to fit into the Vogue style,” says Corbijn, who prefaced the book in a short passage. The British photographer details how apprehensive and uncomfortable he was on his first collaboration with her. As time has progressed, Corbijn finds himself in a comfortable position with Posnick. “When I work with Phyllis now, it is an educational day out. It is not a total Zen experience, but at times we are getting dangerously close to it.” That must be the dream for an image-maker working alongside an editor.

Corbijn is generally tasked with cultural happenings that appear in the back pages of Vogue. Broadway stars, film stars, chefs, artists—his naturalistic oeuvre has featured many of the worlds renowned creatives, performers and creators.

Irving Penn
Posnick dedicates the book to Irving Penn whose work comprises the last chapter of the book. It isn’t a coincidence that Posnick pens the longest passage about Mr Penn, as she called him. She comments on his meticulous nature, his passion and drive, his demanding streak and his ability to create a fantastic image. Penn’s section of the book also features the largest body of work. My personal favourite is of a bee placed on the orange-lacquered lips of a model’s open mouth. A play on bee-stung lips—a botox craze—the image features all the components of a classic Posnick image: the twisted, surreal sense of humour, the clear and direct meaning, the dedication to unforgettable photojournalism. Through all nine photographers work, Posnick’s career in a nutshell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Toga // Spring 2017 //

Yasuko Furuta’s Toga has been proudly placed on the London Fashion Week schedule for a number of years now. The Japanese designer has thoughtfully invigorated with her unique brand of fashion—she’s a designer for a “complex woman”. It’s been a fascinating watch, seeing Furuta develop her brand and contend with the fast-paced industry, without compromising her individualistic aesthetic.

‘Flux, Temperance, Release’, she titled her latest collection, shown on the final day of London Fashion Week in September. Flux denotes continuous change; temperance meaning moderation or self-restraint in action; release symbolising freedom from anything that restrains. Of course, those terms have obvious connotations with water: flux, the movement; temperance in relation to alcohol; release and the rush of water. 

Flux, temperance, release are three terms applicable to the current state of fashion. Everything is in ‘flux’—designers are showing whenever and wherever they feel like. Public School who ditched the schedule last season are back to New York Fashion Week this season ahead. Demna and Guram Gvasalia’s Vetements continues to prosper despite its off-season approach. Gosha Rubchinskiy presenting his menswear in Kaliningrad—nobody is fazed anymore. ‘Temperance’ pertaining to consumerist ideals and consumption of fashion, whether it be physical or intangible. Furuta doesn’t do simplified fashion—her work is complex and she makes her clothes worth the challenge but also worth your money. ‘Release’ is possibly ranked directly after ‘flux’. The amount of imagery consumed during fashion month is terrifying. Furuta’s show alone probably saw thousands of images shared and reproduced across the internet.

Whether the above was Furuta’s intent, this added level of intellectualism heightens the already intense experience of viewing her exquisite fashions. There’s something off about latex trousers with a white blouse boasting amorphous blobs or a knit top with ancient imagery or a latex shirt and asymmetric skirt pairing. Specifically, her repeated use of latex, with its watery finish, points to something else prominent in Furuta’s work—her fetishistic streak. Latex and the way models waists were bound with large belts, corsetry and suspenders featuring too—it reminded one of the erotic oeuvre of Nobuyoshi Araki, the Japanese photographer who captured his subjects bound and/or nude.

Furuta effortlessly intertwines the relevant reference points providing an engaging, searing, thought-provoking procession that I would expect from a London designer. Water, conversations about the state of fashion and fetish—who knew one could build a collection around them. 

There’s something in the water. Drink up.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Debuts in Milan // Fall 2017 // Menswear

With fashion’s goldfish attention span you mightn’t remember the musical chairs that punctuated every other month in 2016. The amount of designer departures, relocations at brands last year was truly shocking. In my seven years of following fashion I have never seen such upheaval. (Here’s hoping it doesn’t wreak more havoc in 2017.)

Milan Fashion Week commenced on Friday evening. It’s a strange time for men’s fashion weeks with the consolidation of women’s and men’s collections, the new schedules designers themselves are inventing. Five tentpole shows of the week are opting out this season. Alessandro Michele’s awe-spiring Gucci iteration—recharged Milan menswear in January 2015—is opting to show its women’s and men’s together at womenswear week in February. Ditto Bottega Veneta, who will follow suit. Brioni and Roberto Cavalli are currently without creative directors—Justin O’Shea famously lasted 6 months at the brand; Peter Dundas was at Cavalli for a year and a half—and will not present as a result. Rodolfo Paglialunga’s will not present a menswear collection for Jil Sander this season. 
Alessandro Sartori made his debut at Ermenegildo Zegna on Friday evening. Formerly, Sartori was the successful creative director of Berluti. It was a bittersweet homecoming for Sartori who rose to prominence as Z Zegna’s creative director in 2003, where he stayed for 7 years when he was appointed as artistic director at Berluti. Zegna’s magnetic pull was felt when it was announced last February that he would be rejoining the Ermenegildo Zegna Group in June 2016. 

His Fall 2017 at the house was presented in the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, which is on the outskirts of Milan. It is an immense venue, a non-profit institution that devotes itself to contemporary art. Currently it’s home to Anselm Kiefer’s The Seven Heavenly Palaces, which is comprised of seven gargantuan structures that the models had to weave around. This wasn’t just a vast show space for the Zegna group to show they are one of the wealthiest in fashion, Sartori commented on the parallels between the pieces and his collection. “The Seven Heavenly Palaces of Anselm Kiefer are realise with pure materials but [the] aesthetic is super sophisticated and this perfectly marries the concept that we have developed in the collection.” Zegna prides itself on the control of the garment from the raw material to the finished product. Creating fabrics from natural resources, this couture-like methodology was highlighted by the previous creative director.

In the run up to the show Zegna’s official Instagram were posting informative videos which cemented the belief that the brand is at the fore of menswear in terms of quality and craft. Under Sartori, an emphasis is placed upon “the purity of craft [meeting] the modernity of the design. Starting from the basics and making it grand.” The collection wasn’t a snooze-fest filed with suit after suit after suit. It paired sharp blazers with wool trousers; boiled wool suits with simple t-shirts; hoodies with practical trousers. Sartori took the basics such as the turtleneck, the hoodie, the jogger pant and elevated them. Also, ‘basics’ to the Zegna customer is a blazer and trousers. He enhanced them to by using innovative fabric techniques. Utilising modern technology, the created new fabrics and worked with existing ones in innovative ways. 

Whereas Stefano Pilati’s Zegna iteration was an ode to old-world luxury, with the spirit of a grand couturier, fit for gilded ballrooms, it was rooted in the past. Here, Sartori will capture the attention of a younger customer, while also retaining the loyalty of an older customer—this was reflected in the age-positive casting, which featured men of all ages. 

Contemporary masculinity will be an interesting obstacle for Sartori. He’ll have to tackle it eventually with the fast-paced, ever-evolving world around us, but until he moves in that direction we’ll just have to appreciate the great clothes. 

Great clothes, although trite to say, underscored the debuts at Milan Fashion Week this weekend. Francesco Risso joins Marni from Prada, where he formerly worked as designer working on the “womenswear collection and on special brand endorsements.” Former creative director, and her family, Consuelo Castiglioni left the brand in October last year. It was a personal decision—the company was owned and run by the Castiglioni family. She was a pioneer intellectual fashion; her clothes were always rooted in a tricky, quirky, oftentimes lofty dimension, that required precise decoding. Although a quiet designer, Castiglioni’s presence strongly resonated with fashion journalists and buyers alike. It was sad to see her go.

Her replacement, Risso, made a fine attempt at hot-wiring the brands codes and driving it forward into the future on Saturday afternoon. Castiglioni’s Marni menswear was all about intellectualising fashion, subverting the tropes and turning them into something kooky but desirable. Risso identifies the Marni strengths and simplifies them for a new, younger customer. It seems every brand is dissatisfied with its customer base nowadays and is trying to be everything to everyone which, if you ask this critic, is sacrificing creative integrity. At a brand like Marni, dumbing things down could prove detrimental. 

“What really interests me is the diversity of the people in the street,” Risso said to WWD, backstage, pre-show. I presume Risso is talking about characters because this wasn’t exactly reflected in the casting, with minimal representation—a better effort than most, might I add. These characters included a man wearing a burgundy suit; a blue and burgundy fur hat; patchwork fur jackets; shaggy sheepskin coats; fur-accented hoodies and tight-fit winter jackets. (There was variety here, something for everyone, as with Zegna the evening previous.) It was all staged within the usual Marni venue, where an optical illusion was projected onto a wall, the flooring was divided geometrically—the Marni street.

The show was a nice repose to the drab and gaudy Dolce & Gabbana runway-cum-‘the worst of millennials’-bash. There was a vibrancy to the collection but Risso’s former outpost, at Prada, was notable. There were whiffs of his former employer in the show. The way a wide-shouldered jacket was belted at the waist with a thick leather belt—or a geometric-print jacket with feather adornments—instantly invoked images of Prada. There’s nothing abhorrent in that—those pieces were remarkable—but this is a different house and I’d like to see Risso reinterpret his own design handwriting in a less deliberate fashion. 

Guillaume Meilland’s opening chapter proved to be a seamless succession from Massimiliano Giornetti’s tenure. Meilland’s history goes back thirteen years when he was junior menswear designer at PHM Saint Pères before assuming menswear designer positions at Cacharel and Yves Saint Lauren; most recently he served alongside Lucas Ossendrijver in the menswear ranks at Lanvin. Like the new womenswear counterpart at Salvatore Ferragamo—Fulvio Rigoni—Meilland is a relatively unknown designer.

His Salvatore Ferragamo man isn’t much different from the last season’s one: he’s polished, his clothes are finely tailored; there’s a practicality to everything—fuss and eccentricity are words that won’t be found in his dictionary. It being Milan Fashion Week, visions of early-00s masculinity are stringently adhered to. The wildest things got here was an ice white leather jacket. The light grey cropped blazer was another surprising additional to the menswear arsenal. It looked odd, but in a good way.

It was tame affair but it will no doubt resonate with the Ferragamo customer. While I disliked its meaninglessness, I have to admit I would love to own many of the pieces shown on the runway. In the absence of Gucci and Jil Sander, there has been a noted loss of intellect among the clothes—save for Donatella Versace and Jeremy Scott’s fabulous shows on Saturday evening; Mrs Prada’s yesterday. That seems to be the recurring theme amongst most designers this season (and every season in Milan): clothes that don’t mean anything but look great. At least they look good because for a while there, they couldn’t even check that box.
Vogue Runway

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bora Aksu // Eudon Choi // Spring 2017

It is a challenge—especially during the event—to keep up with the collections that come out of fashion week. When you’re in a city for fashion week you’re more focused on your daily itinerary than viewing collections you’ve not seen online; this is highlighted by the lack of sufficient internet access at hotels. Today I am going to discuss two collections from brands I always feature, two collections that I had yet to talk about.

Bora Aksu was one of the first designers I experienced at London Fashion Week. Although his wasn’t the first show I attended—I visited Somerset House when he was presenting his Fall 2012 collection in February 2012, with my family. His show was broadcast live outside the BFC Courtyard Space. My first show was later and I have been following him since. For Spring 2017 he continued to venture out on his own, at a venue away from the BFC homestead. 93 Mortimer Street, a stately space hidden away from the main thoroughfare, hosted the latest presentation.
Aksu’s family and his design language have always been interconnected. He has recalled letters sent to him while at boarding school, photographs of his mother in collections over the past few years. His grandmother, another influential character, inspirited this offering; her upbringing and her childhood home in the countryside by the Aegean Sea primarily. In accordance with last season, Aksu reinvigorated the lace macrame that defines his niche. It was growing tired but became energised with last season’s Russian tale. He contrasted the darkness with spring’s sensual but delicate brightness. 

The collection came in colours he returns to time and time again—hot pink with orange; sweet pale pink; turquoise and baby blue. They are the colours of the garden. The repetition is indicative of Aksu’s aesthetic: his work builds momentum slowly; it’s indicative of his use of familial references—the colour palette is a like a family recipe and Aksu is sharing it bit by bit with the fashion press.

Eudon Choi is another regular on my blog. I have been following him for four years this year, although 2017 marks his seventh year in business. His breakout moment was in 2010 when he participated in Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch; his breakthrough moment came the following year when Anna Wintour and the late Franca Sozzani invited him to present at Milan Fashion Week. Years later, Choi is still a fixture on the London Fashion Week schedule. His slow-burn attitude and approach to fashion has seen him celebrate—mostly underrated—female artists.
His Spring 2017 collection was entitled ‘Francesca’, an homage to Francesca Woodman, the American portrait photographer. Drawing on the asymmetry apparent in her work, Eudon experimented with shape and silhouette. In his opening look he deconstructed the traditional blue shirt giving it a summery reset, exuding warmth and a Riviera state of grace. His ensuing collection saw him continue to play with shape in ways hitherto unimaginable. Typically bound my harsh lines, Eudon loosened the restraints and let his fabrics carry with the wind. Summery and feminine, but not necessarily bound by polish.

Choi must’ve witnessed the rise of deconstructed lines at Vetements and Balenciaga. Here, without copying the trendsetter Demna Gvasalia in the slightest, he translates the trend into his relaxed, softer language. This breath-of-fresh-air-collection proves that Choi has become a superlative designer.
Both brands fall into the mid-level category at London Fashion Week. Scheduling shows that these brands’ shows and presentations fall on either the opening or closing day of the week, when the international press has yet to arrive from New York and when they’re about to board a flight to Milan. Luke Leitch commented on how the fashion press tend to “overlook or patronise mid-level designers”, in an article about how at London Fashion Week Men’s the bigger labels, i.e. McQueen, Burberry and Coach, have opted out of the schedule. Circumstances are different at womenswear week as evidenced by the brevity of the schedule—between high-wattage brands and buzzed-about upcoming designers: it’s easy to forget the all important middle ground. Thankfully, Bora Aksu and Eudon Choi stick around—they’re a nice change of pace. 
Photo Credit: The Impression